Definitive Guide to Tent Types

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We aim to provide clarity to women on their way to their next outdoor adventure.  Here we have provided a guide to tent types intended for outdoor use like camping, backpacking and even picnicking at the beach.  You might be surprised that there are motorcycle tents and even floating and hanging tents!

We also have a few articles on specific tent brands. You can click the logo below of the tent company you are interested in. If you are interested in car camping you may find the Coleman tents the best fit and REI tents may be a good fit for backpacking or lightweight camping.  

Sometimes there are way too many options to sift through to figure out what exactly is the absolute best choice. Take a look below at the tent tents we have defined for you. Everything from a rooftop tent to tee-pee tents an everything in between.


Instant Tent

Instant Tent

The beauty of an instant tent is that it can be set up in a fraction of the time of a typical tent. Typically the instant tent is laid out and the telescoping poles are extended (like an umbrella) and snapped into place, and that’s it!  They all meet at a center wheel at the top of the tent and it automatically sets itself into place.

Common Uses

  • Camping
  • Picnic
  • Beach

Pros

  • Quick set up
  • Sturdy poles
  • Taller than traditional tents

Cons

  • Bulky
  • Not good in rain or snow
  • Not good in the wind

Pop Up Tent

Tent Type guide

The pop-up tent literally pops-up when removed from their bag. You know that car window shade that you have to twist and fold in some magical way to get them into a smaller storage circle? Well, it’s a lot like that.

Common Uses

  • Camping
  • Picnic
  • Beach

Pros

  • Easy set up
  • small and light
  • Easy to take in small vehicle

Cons

  • Not very durable
  • Not good in rain or snow
  • Not good in the wind

Teepee Tent (or Tipi Tent)

Tent type guide

A teepee tent is shaped like an upside-down ice cream cone. Some designs have a center pole and others do not. The height offers better ventilation and condensation management than other shapes. Tipi’s often incorporate a smoke flap, to allow smoke out and maintain the warmth. They are usually made from canvas or similar material.

Common Uses

  • Camping
  • Kids
  • Glamping

Pros

  • Easy set up
  • Snow shedding
  • Stove compatible

Cons

  • Center pole can obstruct
  • May be big to transport

Yurt Tent

Tent typw guide yurt tent

The traditional yurt (Turkic) or ger (Mongolian) is defined as a portable, round-shaped tent with a roof that is self-supported. Like a cone on a cylinder. Larger yurts sometimes have center support poles to help keep the roof up. The walls are traditionally made of a lattice structure which expands to create the outer walls. Camping tents in a yurt style will often have at least one interior pole and use tension lines (guy-lines) to create the sidewall tension

Common Uses

  • Glamping
  • Base Camp
  • Family events
  • Summer Camp

Pros

  • Spacious
  • Waterproof 
  • Stove compatible

Cons

  • Cost
  • Not good in wind

Cabin Tent

Definitive tent type guide

The shape of the cabin tent closely resembles that of a log cabin. They have straight walls, providing ample floor space, and larger models have inner partitions to make smaller rooms inside the tent. The cabin tent is popular among families and large group trips. The cabin tents tend to be more durable. There are usually multiple doors and many windows, providing a lot of ventilation.

Common Uses

  • Family
  • Large Groups
  • Base Camp
  • Camping
  • Glamping

Pros

  • Spacious
  • Durable
  • Interior height

Cons

  • Not good in rain
  • Weight

Dome Tent

definitive guide to tent types

The dome tent is also called a ‘geodesic dome’ and is usually free-standing and does not depend on staking, pegs or guylines. The dome tent style often accommodates more people fir the weight. The broad peak allows space for sitting and moving. Some dome tents can connect with others creating a large habitat.

Common Uses

  • Family
  • Large Groups
  • Base Camp
  • Camping
  • Glamping

Pros

  • Spacious
  • Durable
  • Interior height

Cons

  • Not good in rain
  • Weight

Pup Tent

Definitive guide to tent types

The pup tent is sometimes referred to as “shelter halves” due to their minimal construction. The simplest form is a tarp pulled over a rope making an A-frame. The height is often no more than 3.5 feet and can be found as long as 12 feet and 5 feet wide. This tent style has been in use for a long time and is simple in design, but you can always find a more updated version with more comfortable features.

Common Uses

  • Camping
  • Backpacking

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Portable
  • Cost

Cons

  • Small

Tarp Tent

Tent type guide

The tarp tent is just that, a tarp (or two) that is strung up similar to a simple shade structure. The tarp is sometimes strung up over just bare dirt, ground tarp, a hammock or cot.  You can get your own set-up from tarps and rope or you can get yourself an all in one kit so you don't have to engineer your own.  

Common Uses

  • Camping
  • Backpacking

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Simple
  • Cost

Cons

  • Not weatherproof from the sides
  • Insects

Beach Tent

Tent type guide

Intended to be used at the beach the beach tents come in all shapes and sizes. They are typically constructed to withstand beach breezes and UV light. Some are canopy style, cabana, made for baby, with or without a floor, half tent and even the kind that pop-up! These are also great for parks and backyards. We prefer the type with a bottom to keep the sand away.

Common Uses

  • Beach
  • Picnic
  • Backyard
  • Kids
  • Sports

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Ventilation
  • Variety
  • Easy to set up

Cons

  • Not weatherproof
  • Insects

Backpacking Tent

Tent type guide

One thing that sets backpacking tents apart is that they are intended to be carried in your pack rather than from the car or van to the campsite. The weight of the backpacking tent is important and the lighter the tent the more expensive it tends to be. Backpacking tents come in 1, 2, 3 and 4 person sizes and when sharing the backpacking tents are usually divided between the backpackers to reduce overall weight.  A 2-person backpacking tent will weigh between 2-4 pounds. Backpacking tents do not allow for a lot of space internally.

Common Uses

  • Backpacking
  • Camping

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Compact
  • Waterproof

Cons

  • Cost
  • Delicate

Camping Tent

guide to tent types

Camping tents are a broad category since almost all tents, regardless of name or style, is used for camping. Camping tents are heavier than backpacking tents and lighter than canvas or yurt style tents. Typically when people refer to camping they mean car-camping. Car camping is a style of camping in which you drive up to (or very close to) the campsite. This style of camping usually includes more comforts than backpacking, but may not quite as much as glamping.

Common Uses

  • Camping
  • Backpacking

Pros

  • Variety
  • Durable

Cons

  • Weight

Glamping Tent

guide to tent types

Glamorous camping! Tents for glamping typically are larger and are defined more by the comfort and features within the tent than anything else. There might be electricity, heat, A/C, an actual bed, light fixtures, rugs, and other creature comforts - anything that makes it . Glamping tents sometimes have wood floors and a porch area. Canvas is a popular material for these tents, as they tens to stay up for longer periods and can handle harsher weather. We have also seen bubble tents for glamping. The shapes range from cabin to bell to yurt to dome and even teepees.

Common Uses

  • Glamping
  • Camping

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Durable
  • Weatherproof

Cons

  • Weight
  • Lack of portability
  • Cost

4 Season Tent (also called a Winter Tent)

Tent type guide

Tents designed to handle all 4 seasons are primarily focused on keeping the camper safe and dry in wet, snowy and winter conditions. They are designed to be sturdy, durable, waterproof and provide a protected vestibule. Four season tents often have no rainfly so that the inside is more protected. Condensation may be an issue if they do not have moisture curtains inside. These winter tents are consructed so that they can fit in narrow spots or rugged terrain without needing extra long guylines, most are short anchor style tabs to make pitching easier.

Common Uses

  • Backpacking
  • Camping
  • Mountaineering
  • Base Camp

Pros

  • Weatherproof
  • Quality
  • Durable

Cons

  • Cost

Cot Tent

Guide to tent types

The cot tent is an awesome invention! The tent cot is just that, a cot that is encompassed by a tent. Some cot tents go down as far as the cot with free and open underneath the cot. This style may be a warmer weather option since there will be free-flowing air under the bed. The other styles include tents (or rainfly) that reach the ground, keeping anything stored underneath protected from the elements. These come in a variety of styles and sizes (including queen size beds).

Common Uses

  • Camping
  • Picnic

Pros

  • All-in-one
  • Weight

Cons

  • Not good in wind

Tent Hammocks

There are three popular types of tent hammocks, tarp, tent and tensile.  They are mostly a similar style based on a hammock foundation.

Tarp Hammock Tent

Tent type guide

 The tarp tent hammock system is the most simple of the two. It consists of a traditional hammock and a separate tarp that is suspended over the hammock, creating a roof. Some of these hammock tent offer anchors so that the hammock does not sway in the wind. A smart investment for this set up would be a bug net to keep you bite-free at night.

Hammock Tent

Tent type guide

The hammock tent is simple and provides a bug net as well as a rainfly to keep you protected.  The advantage of this tent style is the all in one nature of the tent hammock makes set up easier than with a tarp.

Tensile Hammock Tent

Tent type guide


The tensile tree tent, as it is sometimes called, is suspended from three points and pulled tight so that the hammock is more like a cot than a loose sack. The tensile tent hammock is gaining popularity due to its simplicity, versatility, and comfort.  The tensile hammock tent requires three rather than two points to properly suspend it.

Common Uses

  • Camping
  • Backpacking
  • Picnic

Pros

  • Weight
  • Versatility
  • Works with sloped ground

Cons

  • Requires Trees
  • Exposure to elements

Inflatable Tent (or Air Tent)

tent guide tent type

Inflatable tents are a more recent development in the tent industry. The inflatable frame version of the inflatable tent is the most simple. It has replaced the tent poles with tubing that is inflated to create a firm structure. You can find this type of inflatable tent as a canopy or camping tent. There are other shapes of inflated structures like tunnels, clamshell, and other festive shapes. The ‘bubble tent’ style is cute, but we haven’t found a good review on any of those available on Amazon.

Common Uses

  • Camping
  • Picnic

Pros

  • Set up
  • Variety

Cons

  • Cost
  • Puncture can destroy your shelter

Bubble Tent

Tent type guide

In a giant bubble, you can experience the beauty of the natural environment without being subject to rain or insects. The bubble tent is operated like a kids party bounce house meaning air is blown into the structure to keep it upright and rigid. There are few options and most are on the higher side of cost. There are very few reviews, we suggest doing personal research before selecting.

Common Uses

  • Camping
  • Glamping
  • Backyard

Pros

  • Visibility
  • Variety

Cons

  • Cost
  • Reliability
  • Air pump sounds

Floating Tent

Tent type guide

A floating tent is a specifically designed structure to sit on an inflated raft-like structure and provide tent accommodations while floating on the water. First and foremost I want to recommend that you tie-off your floating tent to something stationary so you don’t end up down a waterfall or out to sea! Some people may refer to a hammock style tent as floating tent (since it floats in air).

Common Uses

  • Camping
  • Beach

Pros

  • Novel
  • Durable

Cons

  • Floating away!
  • Puncture can sink the trip.

Screen Tent

Tent type guide

The idea behind the screen tent is to allow air and visibility while not allowing insects to get involved in the fun. A screen tent is typically a rectangle and large enough to hold 4 chairs or a picnic table. Of course you can find them larger and smaller and even in more rounded shapes.

Common Uses

  • Picnic
  • Camping
  • Parties

Pros

  • Bug free breeze
  • Protect food
  • Easy set up

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Bulky

Hot Tent

Tent type guide

The hot tent is a great way to enjoy snow or cold weather camping. The hot tent is designed to accommodate a heat source like a wood stove. It will have a port for the exhaust of the stove to escape safely.It is important to have ventilation into the tent in order to feed the fire. The tent material in a hot tenting camping adventure is typically canvas or other cotton based material. Nylon, the typical tent material will melt and cause a fire hazard easily and canvas offers more fire resistance than nylon or other synthetic materials. Hot tenting has become more popular with anglers, hunters, and even winter campers as of late.

Common Uses

  • Cold Weather
  • Camping
  • Glamping

Pros

  • Warm nights!
  • Durable

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Bulky

Family Tent

Guide to tent types

The family tent often is large enough to snugly fit 6 adults or comfortably fit 2 adults and 2 children. These tents are often tall and cabin shaped, although we have been family camping with friends that have a dome style family tent. They are often large enough to offer removable walls to make separate rooms within the family tent. Materials and construction will vary.

Common Uses

  • Camping
  • Beach
  • Picnic

Pros

  • Large size
  • Durable
  • Spacious

Cons

  • Heavy

Hanging Tent

Guide to tent types

The hanging tent is just like it sounds, a tent suspended from above, like a bird cage. If it isn’t windy these are great fun for camping. There is no uneven ground or rocks to worry about, but some may sag in the middle, so check the construction out so it meets your needs. These come in teepee, globe, cabins and other creative shapes.

Common Uses

  • Camping
  • Beach
  • Glamping

Pros

  • Large size
  • Durable
  • Fun!

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Transportation
  • Set up

Canvas Tent

Canvas wall tent

Canvas is the material used on a frame to create a shelter. Most canvas tent materials are made from cotton and coated with a water repellent or other weather treatment. Another type of canvas wall is made from a cotton and polyester blend. There are two types of canvas, plain and duck. Duck canvas is more tightly woven than plain.
Common Shapes of Canvas Tents: dome tent, bell-shaped tent, cabin tent, tunnel tent, teepee tent

Common Uses

  • Camping
  • Beach
  • Glamping
  • Booth

Pros

  • Insulation
  • Breathable
  • Size
  • Durabe
  • All-season
  • Heater compatible

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Bulky
  • Large
  • Set up

Rooftop Tents

Roof top tent type

The rooftop tent is literally a roof tent for your vehicle! There are quite a few variations of a root top tent. See below for each type of rooftop tent. Each specific tent has rack, car, truck, SUV, Jeep, or motorcycle considerations and requirements, be sure to check that your roof top tent is compatible with your vehicle.

We have listed the different versions of rooftop tents below.

Hard Shell Roof Top Tent

hard shell rooftop tent guide

The hardshell rooftop tent is stored inside a hard container during storage and transportation. They are easier to set up (some just pop up) and offer more substantial protection during wet or windy weather. The hard shell rooftop tent is an improvement on the soft shell roof top tent.

Soft Shell Roof Top Tent

tent type

The softshell roof top tent is more like a traditional tent. It is stored inside a bag on the roof of the vehicle.  It takes a bit more to set up, but is lighter and less expensive than the hard shell roof top tent.  

Truck Tent

Truck tent type

This is such a great invention! This is a truck tent that sits inside your truck bed. Some models offer a simple tent within the bed while others have more complex system with a connected ground level annex tent to be used for kids, staging or other things. If you have a ruffled bed liner you may consider laying plywood or buying a floor surface.

Jeep Tent

jeep tent type guide

Jeeps are made to get to rugged and remote areas and ideal as a camping partner. With a Jeep tent you have a lot of roof top options to suit your particular Jeep model and needs for a roof top tent.

SUV Tent

Tent type guide

As with all roof top tent choices, the most important considerations are the SUV and roof rack model compatibility with the SUV tent. The options available will be similar to a car or truck roof tent.

Car Tent

Tent type guide

Don’t have a truck or SUV, but still want to camp in style on top? There are definetly suitable options for a car top tent.

Motorcycle Tent

tent typew guide

There is no excuse for not camping with your motorcycle anymore! These are ingenious motorcycle tent designs. Some offer a protected area for your baby and others are more simple using the motorcycle as part of the tent tension system. There is a third type that puts the tent over the seat of the motorcycle.

Pros

  • Camp anywhere!
  • Above ground crawlers
  • Set up
  • durable

Cons

  • Stays on room
  • Cost

Check out our REI Tents for women review for a guide to camping tents and our Coleman Tents for even more options.


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